Washington: Estelle Liebow Schultz, who is 98, was born before her fellow countrywomen had the right to vote. Now she has proudly cast a ballot for the candidate she hopes will make history as the first American woman elected president.
Hillary Clinton hopes to become that woman on November 8, breaking the ultimate glass ceiling after having become, at the Democratic nominating convention in July, the first female candidate for a major party.
Schultz was born in June 1918, two years before American women gained the vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. “To see such an accomplishment in my lifetime is momentous,” said the retired teacher, who lives in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland.
Having cast an early vote — as several states permit — she hopes to see the inauguration in January of the first woman president, following the succession of 44 men that began with George Washington in 1789.
It has been a long road, starting with the presidential campaign in 1872 of Victoria Woodhull — who at 34 was technically a year too young to become president — as candidate of the Equal Rights Party. History books list the vote totals won by her male rivals, but not hers.
Britain, Germany, Croatia, Norway, Chile and South Korea have women leaders; Israel, Brazil, Argentina and Pakistan have been led by women. “We are very late compared to many other countries around the world,” said Jeanne Zaino, a political scientist at Iona College in New York.
Only two women have made it onto major party presidential tickets: the Republican Sarah Palin, who was John McCain’s running mate in 2008, and Geraldine Ferraro, who joined Walter Mondale on the Democratic ticket in 1984. Both lost.
Some women failed to survive the brutal primary election process, chewed up by the big parties’ political machines. Others became historical footnotes in the quixotic campaigns of splinter parties. “When you don’t support women in a structural way, you have fewer women who can rise to the top, in politics and other arenas,” Zaino said.
Ms Clinton has sometimes presented herself as a mother or a grandmother, but the 69-year-old has used the “woman card” sparingly, intent on being judged first for her competence and experience.
At the same time, her rival Donald Trump has not hesitated to draw on stereotypes of women, describing the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state as weak and lacking stamina.